Four years ago, a hungry, tuckered-out, feral, orange tabby showed up on my porch. He was a feisty little guy, but with good reason. Somewhere along the way folks had let him down. The pain and mistreatment he’d suffered, I could see it in his eyes. He kept his distance, but soon the two of us developed a relationship; well, maybe it was actually more of a ritual. Every morning Goldie (everyone needs a name) sat outside on my lounge chair waiting for me to get out of bed. When he’d hear me shuffling around in the kitchen making coffee, he’d come and sit on my side porch. My feline friend was waiting for his usual breakfast: one can of turkey with gravy, one scoop of dry cat food, and a fresh bowl of water to wash it all down.
Tasty meals three times a day—after a few weeks, Goldie put on some weight, so it was time to get him neutered. I’ve caught a number of stray cats in cages and got them fixed, which is a good thing. But I also feel a little like a bad guy and not a very good friend, because I feed the cats every day and get them to trust me, but then I put sardines in the back of a cage, and just when feral kitty is starting to chomp on the tasty snack, the cage door slams shut and off we go to the vet to do the deed. My veterinarian had generously offered to neuter Goldie for free—“If you can catch him, Suzanne.”
Ah yes, if I could catch him. Goldie was comfortable enough to walk one or two steps inside my house, but if I reached out to touch him, he’d hiss and run. I had several heart-to-heart talks with Goldie, explaining that I just wanted to help, and I honestly think he understood because every morning when I opened the door to talk to him, his eyes said, “I want you to pet me and love me.” But then he remembered the family that used to love him and abandoned him, and was afraid to trust again.
Trying to catch Goldie was extremely frustrating. After two failed attempts (both times the cage malfunctioned), Goldie caught on to my scheme and was too smart to venture into the small cage the Animal Rescue Shelter let me borrow. So I bought a huge dog cage, put a soft cushy rug inside along with a small bowl of Goldie’s favourite turkey and gravy, set the cage on my side porch, tied a rope to the cage door, and had my husband hide around the corner holding the rope—partners in a neuter intervention. Since my husband couldn’t actually see the cage, I kept watch through a window from inside the house. My husband and I both had cell phones, so when Goldie was safely inside the cage, I’d let my husband know when to pull on the rope. The cage door would shut, we’d load the cage into our son’s van and off we’d go to the vet.
“Pull, now, pull! Goldie’s inside the cage!” I instructed. The door closed just like we’d planned and Goldie was trapped inside . . . until he put his paw up on the door and the door easily glided open. Out walked Goldie, who gave my husband and me a look of “you foolish people” before running off.
We were stunned! But then we realized our mistake. After my husband pulled on the rope, the cage door did shut, but there wasn’t any tension on the door to keep it closed. Despite our disappointed efforts, we didn’t give up. Four days later we finally caught the rascal and I took him to the vet, hoping when I brought him back home I could catch his heart. Sometimes male cats mellow after getting neutered, and that’s what I was hoping for. I had visions of Goldie snuggling up to me when I picked him up from the vet, but he was snarling more than ever. At least he didn’t hold a grudge—the next morning he showed up for breakfast and we resumed our normal routine.
Goldie was part of our family for years, a distant relative who’d only take two steps into the house, but we loved him. So I was worried when Goldie didn’t show up three days in row, especially since the last time I’d seen him something didn’t feel quite right. For days, every hour I’d walk over to the window and look out, but Goldie wasn’t there. Finally I had to come to terms with the fact that he was gone, but I couldn’t really be at peace about it because I had no way of knowing for sure what happened to Goldie. Until one night I saw him in a dream.
Goldie may not have been able to show his love to me when he was here, but in my dream there he was, sitting underneath a street lamp, and his eyes weren’t afraid any longer. Instead, they were filled with love and thanks, and he was saying goodbye.
He was a handful, but he was mine and I miss him.